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Ruderman Family Foundation Rewards Jewish Organizations for Ensuring Inclusion

The Ruderman Family Foundation rewards Jewish organizations for promoting inclusion of those with disabilities.
Jay Ruderman, President of the Ruderman Family Foundation

Jay Ruderman, President of the Ruderman Family Foundation
Photo Credit: Ruderman Family Foundation

The Ruderman Family Foundation is an Israeli-American foundation which focuses on recognizing and rewarding innovative programs which provide services that foster full inclusion of people with disabilities in their local Jewish community. It exemplifies the best in Jewish values.

Last week the Ruderman Foundation announced the five winners of the third annual Ruderman Prize in Inclusion.

The winners are: Jewish Vocational Service of Toronto (Toronto, ON), JewishCare Big Brother Big Sister Mentoring program (Sydney, Australia), Bar-Ilan University’s Empowerment Program (Israel), Jewish Family Services of Houston (Houston, TX) and the St. Paul Jewish Community Center (St. Paul, MN). Each winner will receive $50,000 to continue their work and pursue new opportunities for inclusion in their local communities.

“Now in its third year, the Ruderman Prize in Inclusion has truly become an international recognition of excellence for the inclusion of people with disabilities in our worldwide Jewish community,” said Jay Ruderman, President of the Ruderman Family Foundation. “This year we have selected organizations from Australia, Canada, Israel and the United States. It is our hope that these awards will inspire Jewish organizations around the world to embrace the inclusion of people with all abilities in our community.”

“Receiving an International Award for our work is a stunning achievement for JewishCare,” said Claire Vernon, CEO of JewishCare. “By recognizing our passion and commitment for including people with disabilities in our programs, the Award provides huge encouragement to continue our groundbreaking work.”

Fully inclusive programs ensure that everyone can participate together, without stigma or imposed limitations. The goal of the Prize is to celebrate the winning organizations as inspiration and models which could be replicated elsewhere. The Ruderman Prize in Inclusion is a signatureprogram of the Ruderman Family Foundation, which believes that inclusion and understanding of all people is essential to a fair and flourishing community. From the outset, the Prize has become an international one, with hundreds of organizations from almost every continent applying. In the past, organizations from Israel, South Africa, Russia, the U.K., Mexico, the U.S. and Argentina have received the award. This year’s winners include programs dedicated to employment, higher education, mentoring, leadership training and full inclusion in communal activities. “We are thrilled to have been chosen to receive the 2014 Ruderman Prize in Inclusion from the Ruderman Family Foundation. It is an honor to be recognized as a global leader in inclusion within the Jewish Community,” said Lorie Shekter-Wolfson, President & CEO of JVS Toronto. “JVS Toronto has a legacy of serving the Jewish Community and supporting clients, many with barriers who would not otherwise have the opportunities they do today. Our commitment to Tikkun Olam(healing the world) drives our organization’s mission and the work we do. Most importantly, this is a special recognition for the staff who work with the students every day and who make the world a better place for them.” The following are brief descriptions of what made the Ruderman Foundation decide to generously reward each recipient. JewishCare’s Big Brother Big Sister Mentoring Program (Australia)- JewishCare’s Big Brother Big Sister Program is a mentoring program for Jewish children through to young people who may be facing challenges and adversity in their lives. The program provides them the opportunity to thrive through the ongoing support and friendship of a big brother/sister mentor. JewishCare has developed strong links with local schools, synagogues and community groups to raise awareness about issues facing young people with a disability, and about the importance of their inclusion into mainstream services. Mimi Zilka, the manager of youth services at Jewishcare had this to say about the program:

Receiving this award confirms our team’s firm belief that all children have the potential to be positively influenced by the consistent and stable presence of a positive role model. Living with a disability should never exclude a person from the privilege.

Little Sister Kaitlyn with her Big Sister, Hannah, at an art workshop of the JewishCare Big Brother and Big Sister program in Sydney, Australia.

Little Sister Kaitlyn with her Big Sister, Hannah, at an art workshop of the JewishCare Big Brother and Big Sister program in Sydney, Australia.

Bar-Ilan University’s Empowerment Program (Israel)- The Empowerment Program provides students with Intellectual Disabilities the opportunity to participate in college-level academic instruction. The Empowerment Program offers three stages of academic inclusion depending on the students’ level of function, including full integration into standard college courses and the ability to receive college credit for qualified individuals. The Program is the first of its kind in Israel and one of a handful of such programs that exist around the world.

The mother of one of the participants in the Empowerment program raves about it:

When my daughter meets non-disabled people and tells them about her studies at Bar-Ilan – their eyes open wide in amazement – they simply can’t believe it’s true! As her mother, I’m constantly amazed anew. The academics, the faculty support, the companionship of the regular students, and the challenge of standard coursework give my daughter a very, very good feeling, a fantastic self-image, and most importantly a strong desire to keep learning, advance and achieve.

Jewish Family Services Alexander Institute for Inclusion (Houston, Texas USA)- The JFS Alexander Institute for Inclusion is a Houston based initiative dedicated to engaging local communities in vital discussions on how to meaningfully include people with disabilities and reduce related stigmas. The Institute develops the leadership skills of key players whose awareness of inclusion brings the conversation (and ultimately action) to the forefront of their work, academic, or communal environments. In its efforts to increase awareness across the board, the Institute uses arts and education programs to change perception and trains leaders to challenge organizations to embrace inclusion in a proactive way.

The founder of the JFS Alexander Institute, Joan Alexander, described Jay Ruderman, the president of the Ruderman Foundation, as  “one of the most influential leaders at the forefront of raising awareness about the inclusion of people with disabilities.  Stanford and I have so much respect for the game-changing work of The Ruderman Family Foundation and their passionate commitment to ensure that all people with disabilities are included in the Jewish community, here, in Israel and worldwide.”

 The Jewish Community Center of the Greater St. Paul Area (St. Paul, Minnesota USA)- The goal of the St. Paul JCC’s Inclusion and Accessibility Services Program is to provide children, teens and adults with physical, cognitive and developmental disabilities the opportunity to be welcomed and fully participate in any and all programs offered by the JCC. The staff works with participants who need extra support and accommodations in numerous programs including:  theater, swimming lessons, personal training, fitness programs and more. For the last thirty years, the JCC has been fully committed to inclusive programming.

Jewish Vocational Service of Toronto (Toronto, Canada)- JVS Toronto helps people succeed by providing outstanding employment, social and educational services which meet the changing needs of the Jewish community. JVS offers specialized programming for populations with Learning Disabilities, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Developmental Disabilities and Mental and Physical Health challenges. helping them find and maintain employment.  This year marks the 50th anniversary of JVS’ delivery of psychological services in Toronto Jewish Day Schools, supporting the schools in understanding, effectively teaching and providing a Jewish education to all children, including those with special education needs.

RudermanPrize in inclusion logo.jpg

About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the US correspondent for The Jewish Press. She is a recovered lawyer who previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools.


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